Some rules for a happy marriage

Posted By on November 9, 2019

I will let you in on a secret: my Charming and Patient Husband and I don’t fight. Maybe it’s because we were older when we started off, and had gained wisdom. Maybe it’s because we were older and too tired to fight. Maybe it’s because it’s sometimes felt like us against the world. Or maybe it’s because my CaPH is so kind, so patient. *

I’m putting it on a combination of the first and the last. The key to our not fighting is, I think, summed up best by a line from War Games. “The only way to win is not to play.” When you fight you may win the battle, against the one you love. Or you may lose it. If you choose not to fight, you win the marriage and the love, and so does your spouse. You can also grow in grace in the process.

Yeah, I guess you could say that we have a mutually agreed upon rule: don’t fight. But it isn’t so simple, because our marriage is filled with unspoken rules “rules” that keep us both happy. They do not constitute an exhaustive manual for marriage, but I do believe they sum up much of the perspective that keeps a marriage thriving.

  • Don’t fight. Find other ways to resolve things.
    • LET IT PASS. I cannot stress this enough. If it’s not important, don’t act like it is. The vast majority of fights can be skipped entirely by simply letting it pass.
    • If it’s important, that does not necessarily mean it is urgent. Discuss it rationally, calmly, and kindly. If you are angry, wait till you are rational, calm, and kind.
    • Learn to apologize. Even if you are right about the big issue, if you have said something hurtful in the discussion, you are responsible for your part. If you intentionally hurt them, apologize. If you unintentionally hurt them, apologize. The world gets easier when you know how to say you’re sorry.
  • Always say more good than bad. A friend gave me some of the best advice before I got married. For every negative thing say five positive things. My husband calls it putting investments in the bank, in preparation for the time when you goof up and have to make a withdrawal.
  • There are a lot of kinds of love. Committed, marital love is not always going to give you goosebumps and heart flutters. That is because it was never love that did that in the first place. It was the thrill of discovery: discovery of the person, and discovery that you love them. It is the thrill of considering taking a huge leap of faith, putting your heart into their hands. It very often goes with the advent of true love, but it is not love itself. Don’t confuse it. Don’t get addicted to the thrill of the conquest.
  • Remember that your spouse is vain. And so are you. He wants to know that he is appreciated. She wants to know that she’s beautiful. You both want to know that you are loved. Tell your spouse — regularly — what you admire in him or her.
  • Keep romance alive. If you have kids, it can be hard to find alone-together time in the normal routine. So you have to make it. Go on dates. Kiss every single day. I don’t mean a perfunctory kiss, either. I mean the kind of kiss that says “I still find you hot.”
  • Learn your spouse’s love language. Learn their favorite way to give love, and also their favorite way to receive it. If you understand that when he does an act of service he is saying I love you, that when she buys you a gift she is saying I love you, you are able to receive that love even if it is not the way that comes naturally to you. And if you discover that she really wants her feet rubbed, or that he really wants praise, then you are better prepared to make each other happy.
  • Understand and appreciate that you are different. Just because your spouse doesn’t do this or that your way doesn’t mean that he or she is wrong. You married each other fully aware that you are different, so don’t let what was once a positive come to seem like a negative after you’ve said vows.
  • Back each other up. Do not ever, ever fight in front of the kids. Don’t disagree about parenting in front of the kids. Have a quiet, “we are both aiming for the same result, we just disagree about how to get there” conversation behind closed doors.
  • Put on your own gas mask first. As in your spouse comes before your children. As it should be. You have made a vow to be partners for life. Your children will, and should, move out and start their own life. If you have modeled putting spouse first, they will be far more likely to have happy marriages themselves.

If you are consistently kind, encouraging, and uplifting to your spouse, you will find that his or her love grows every day, and your spouse will try harder to be consistently kind, encouraging, and uplifting to you. Because that’s what love does.

*Special thanks to my CaPH, who pretends I can do no wrong.

note: this is not intended to solve all problems, to substitute for other solutions (retreats, couples therapy, etc), or to suggest that all problems can be overcome. In cases of abuse or danger to either yourself or your children, get distance first. Then evaluate.


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